North Texas Daily

Five observations from North Texas vs. Old Dominion

Five observations from North Texas vs. Old Dominion

Five observations from North Texas vs. Old Dominion
October 28
21:02 2017

1. Fourth quarter heroics

We’ve become accustomed to seeing the Mean Green get off to a hot start in the first quarter before saving themselves for fourth quarter heroics, and that was the case again Saturday night. North Texas scored on four of its first five possessions of the game before blowing an 18-point lead, but the Mean Green made enough plays when it mattered most to walk away with a win. A fumble recovery followed by three straight fourth down stops by the defense, combined with the go-ahead touchdown from Nic Smith, moved North Texas to 5-3 on the season and 4-1 in Conference USA play.

2. Dramatic defensive improvement

ODU put up 38 points in the game, but the majority of that was by no means the fault of the North Texas defense. The Mean Green didn’t allow a single offensive touchdown in the first half and held ODU to just two offensive touchdowns in the game. North Texas finally got a big play in the secondary on an interception from Eric Jenkins deep in Mean Green territory, but the biggest play of the night came on a strip sack by Tillman Johnson leading to a LaDarius Hamilton fumble recovery. The North Texas defense tied the game at 38-38 after that play before going on to force three straight turnovers on downs to secure the win.

3. The running back situation moving forward

Jeffery Wilson left the game in the first half to get fitted for a neck collar in the locker room, according to a source close to the team. He returned to the game in the second quarter but lost a fumble before heading to the sideline for the remainder of the game. Fortunately, redshirt freshman running back Nic Smith lived up to the hype surrounding his arrival last season in his first time leading the way in the backfield, finishing with 95 total yards and two touchdowns in the win. Wilson is one of the top backs in program history when healthy, and has battled injuries in the past. If he misses any length of time, it will be a blow to the offense – but Smith provides some assurance the drop-off won’t be as severe as it has been in previous years.

4. Special teams: Trick

The Mean Green had some issues on special teams earlier this season and have been shaky in kickoff coverage at different times throughout the year. The team also had problems with the snap on PATs two weeks ago against UTSA. But Saturday night against Old Dominion, it was again the kickoff team that caused the Mean Green problems. ODU’s Isaiah Harper returned two kickoffs all the way, allowing the Monarchs to stay in the game when the team’s offense was struggling early. The North Texas defense was much improved, but the failure to contain Harper on special teams was a blemish on what was otherwise a great bounce-back performance by the Mean Green.

5. Special teams: or treat?

It’s impossible to group the entire special teams’ group into a negative category because of the plays the North Texas punt return unit made to put some points on the board and dramatically impact field position. Taylor Robinson blocked a punt that Evan Johnson returned 40 yards for a touchdown to make the score 28-10 in before Dee Baulkman got his hands on another ODU punt to set the Mean Green up with great field position. Those two plays returned a lot of momentum to the North Texas sideline early in the game and gave the offense a boost before the break. When North Texas was trailing 38-35 at the start of the fourth quarter, punter Blake Patterson pinned ODU inside its own 5-yard line, eventually leading to a LaDarius Hamilton fumble recovery that allowed the Mean Green to tie the game at 38-38.

Featured Image: Redshirt freshman running back Nic Smith finished with 95 total yards and two touchdowns after taking over in the backfield for Jeffery Wilson in the second half. 

About Author

Brady Keane

Brady Keane

Brady Keane is the Sports Editor of the North Texas Daily. He previously served as Deputy Sports Editor (Jan. 2017-May 2017) and as a Staff Writer (Aug. 2015-May 2016).

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